With Matt Garza out to a lat injury and expected to start the season on the disabled list, there are very few who qualify to take the mound on opening day for the Cubs.
The first name that pops to mind is Jeff Samardzija, and that is exactly what the Cubs’ front office though too. Shark will be given the privilege of an opening day start.
When you start to consider all the factors that came in to play during the decision making process, you have to wonder: did Shark earn the start? or did he just fall in to it?
Could he really be ready to pitch effectively opening day?
I’ve been having this debate with Cubs fans and general baseball fans alike about the readiness of Samardzija in general. He’s still young by pitching standards and relatively unproven despite his breakout season in 2012.
There has been a lot of time and thought sunk in to this matter and I can safely say that Shark is the man for the job.
No doubt that Shark is the best healthy pitcher the Cubs have right now and it was quickly announced that he would be the starter once news of Garza’s injury was public. This indicates that it was a 2 horse race from the start and with one horse down, only the other can cross the finish line a victor.
Garza is a damned good pitcher too, but Samardzija brings a very different pitch mix and strong baseball IQ to the mound. He has 2 different strikeout pitches, uses his nasty splitter effectively when in good counts, and makes good choices on the mound. For example, he almost never throws select pitches to left handers to mitigate the advantages of a lefty hitter.
Worth noting is that Shark has always been an athlete. He’s used to playing in large scale events, especially when he played college football for Notre Dame. He’s mentally strong and can perform in pressure cooker situations.
While he did get shelled in one spring training outing against the Texas minor leaguers, his spring numbers have still been good despite a small sample size. Look for him to continue throwing his sinker a bit more than previous years as it pairs nicely with his splitter and fastball. He’s also introduced a cutter in 2012 that will be used to keep batters off balance, but won’t be used as a K pitch.
For a man of his age, he has the attributes of a veteran pitcher.
Samardzija will be ready for opening day. He’s the man for the job because he’s not just a thrower, he’s a controlled, calculated pitcher.